India is Losing Kashmir
India is Losing Kashmir
By Ikram Ullah
Kashmir has been simmering in decades ofsince the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. The violence reached its peak in the 1980s and ‘90s, when the Pakistan-backed Kashmiri insurgency was at its strongest. By the early 2000s, however, the violence seemed to have abated, and there was hope for a peaceful settlement of the issue. But now, optimism for such a peaceful settlement is dwindling. As Kashmir has seen a resurgence in violence, public support for the insurgency also seems to be increasing. India is losing whatever support it had among the general Kashmiri public, and this trend will continue unless it brings about a radical change in its Kashmir policy.
Following the 1947 partition, the political status of the formerlyof Kashmir was left largely contested by both Pakistan and India, which led to the establishment of the Line of Control (LoC), dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan after a. However, there were aspirations for political independence among some Kashmiris. By the late 1980s, such aspirations had taken the shape of an armed revolt, backed by Pakistan, against Indian rule in Kashmir. India responded with a massive crackdown on the militants, deploying over half a million soldiers in Kashmir, often leading to grave. The violence of the late 1980s and 1990s, which claimed thousands of lives, began to recede at the beginning of the new millennium, as people gained faith in the dialogue process.
In the following decade, militancy-related causalities decreased significantly fromin 2001 toin 2009. A major factor that contributed to thein the violence was the endorsement of theby India’s then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which led to the historicin 1999, in which both India and Pakistan committed to the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue. The repeated efforts of the Vajpayee government tothe pro-separatist political party and even themilitant group to the for talks led to a ceasefire. The option ofwithin the ambit of the Indian constitution offered by Vajpayee further fed the optimism for a peaceful settlement with India. This political shift resulted in a relative calm over the ensuing years, withandin Kashmir flourishing.
However, aand India’s brutal response signaled a shift in the political climate. In the subsequent years, there has been ain Kashmiri youthagainst the Indian establishment. Most of theseareand come from well-off families in Kashmir. These youths – who are mostly joining– are garnering huge support from the general population, and are increasingly attracting more and more peers to join their ranks. Theof this new insurgency has been Burhan Muzaffar Wani, a young, social media-savvy militant who openlywith automatic assault rifles in hand and shares them on,a huge number of sympathetic comments. He has since released audio andinviting other young Kashmiris to join the insurgency and fight the Indian establishment. During a 2011 gunfight in Pulwama in southern Kashmir, localsat Indian soldiers in a bid to help a trapped militant escape the cordon. This has become commonplace to the point where security forces have sought to implementof India’s criminal procedure code, which prohibits the gathering of people around an “encounter site” within a radius of 1.2 miles. On Feb. 21, local civilians were seen defying these restrictions when theytowards such an encounter site in the southern town of Pampore, again hurling stones at the security personnel.
In October of last year, Abu Qasim, a top commander of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba – believed to be responsible for several attacks on the Indian Army including the 2013– was. A sea of people attended his. Authorities confirmed that militants also attended the funeral and fired ato honor his death. As if this were not enough, people from the villages of Khandaypora and Bugam with each other over “the honor” of burying his body in their respective villages. Then, in November, anbetween militants and the Indian Army broke out in the Manigah forests of Kupwara in Indian-administered Kashmir, lasting 27 days, Indian soldiers, and leaving six others injured. The General Officer Commanding (GoC) of the Indian Army’s Srinagar-based 15 Corps stated that the. In yet another incident, nearlyattended the funeral procession of Shariq Ahmad Bhat, a member of the Hizbul Mujahideen militant group, who was killed in Pulwama district on Jan. 20 of this year. Militants weretheir AK-47 rifles in salute. The of locals in insurgency-related events suggests resurgent support for militancy in Kashmir, which has set alarm bells ringing in the Indian security establishment. The renewed support is so strong that even the president of the Kashmir High Court Bar Association, Mian Abdul Qayoom, recently indicated his support for the insurgency,, “We can also use [the] gun as a last resort, and it is no offence under [the] U.N. Charter.”
During a November 2014 visit to Kashmir, discussions with locals revealed that Kashmiris point to the Indian government’sfor the resurgence in violence. Many were of the opinion that India has not been honest in resolving the political problem of Kashmir. “India asked us to give up arms and come to the table, and we did it. What happened next? Nothing,” said one Kashmiri. “When the situation in Kashmir was bad during the ‘90s, India repeatedly said that dialogue is the way forward to the Kashmir problem and not violence. And now that India has strengthened its hold here, they say there is no political problem at all,” said another.
People usually point to civilianin,, andas the major turning points. Local disgruntlement towards India intensified among the general public afterof civilian youths were killed during these protests. India could have done some damage control by punishing the cops involved in shooting at theprotesters and by following theof a government-appointed panel. Instead, the government chose to disregard the recommendations and continued to insist that Kashmir was an “.” India’s policies of curbing political space for Kashmiris by keeping the massively popular Hurriyat leaders like,andunder constant and repeated detention has further damaged its reputation with the local population. In September 2015, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had invited Geelani to its annual meeting of foreign ministers in New York – India responded byhis passport for four weeks out of concerns that he would have raised the Kashmir issue.
India has repeatedly used the Public Safety Act (PSA) – deemed “” by Amnesty International – to detain Kashmiri political leaders like , who, on Dec. 31, 2015, was arrested for theunder the law. The detention came immediately after Alam’s release from jail following a High Court order overturning his earlier detention under the same law. In 2015 alone, 634 people, of whom 231 were students and 17 were minors, were for anti-India demonstrations in Kashmir. The demolition of the offices of the Kashmir University Students Union, theon student politics, and the repeatedand mobilehave alienated Kashmiri youths in particular.
While the Vajpayee government welcomed any opportunities for dialogue – evenseparatist Hurriyat leaders to hold talks with Pakistan – the current Modi government has taken a different approach. Modi has prohibited the Hurriyat leaders from meeting with Pakistani officials, citing the prohibition as afor talks with Pakistan. This resulted in the of a meeting between the national security advisers of the two countries after Pakistan rejected the pre-condition. To many Kashmiris, India’s insistence on this pre-condition seemed to embody an effort to deny them a voice in the dispute. The repeated calls by various civil society and human rights groups for the repeal of draconian laws such as the(AFSPA) – which gives sweepingto the armed forces of India operating in Kashmir – have been met with a cold shoulder, as the Indian army has staunchly opposed any attempts to repeal it.
These kinds of reprehensible policies that the Indian establishmentare to maintain peace in Kashmir have produced a disaffected Kashmiri population. And although it may appear to have strengthened its hold,popular support in Kashmir by sticking to its policy of focusing solely on economic development while maintaining the security status quo. In a vivid illustration of the problem, just a day after Indian Prime Minister Modi visited Kashmir last November and unveiled a $12 billion economic developmentfor the state, a 22-year-old Kashmiri man, Gowhar Nazir Dar, wasby the Central Reserve Police Force. The resultingcarried on for days, with protesters across Kashmir combining to outnumber the attendees of the rally where Modi spoke.
At a time when the Islamic State is threatening to– even though it hasthere for its message,– there still remains athat the angry and agitated people who turn out in huge numbers at militant funerals could fall prey to its propaganda in order to fight the Indian establishment. For India to end this long quagmire of armed conflict with Kashmiris, it must shift away from its current policy and allow political space for Kashmiris. It should repeal its draconian laws like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Public Safety Act and punish soldiers involved in human rights violations. And, finally, India should work with Kashmiris and Pakistan alike to reach a viable solution so that peace may prevail. But until India realizes the damage it has done, the streets of Kashmir will reverberate with chants in support of its supposed martyrs, much like they did during the funeral procession of Abu Qasim.
Courtesy: Foreign Policy Magazine